Newly, vastly empowered principals have succeeded in inculcating a climate of fear within the schools that proscribes whistle-blowing, grievance filing, and collective action. Nothing demonstrates this more than the Chancellor’s recent remarks that 1500 recently excessed teachers (an increase of 500% from last year) are “potentially undesirable veteran[s]” (The New York Times, 9/2/06).

UFT President Randi Weingarten should be as much an object of teachers’ scorn as Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein. During negotiations for the 2003-2007 contract Ms. Weingarten sacrificed a well-oiled system of teacher transfer in which excessed teachers were guaranteed placement within their region for a so-called “open market” system wherein excessed teachers pound the pavement–citywide–in the oft-vain attempt at securing employment.

The jettisoning of Tier I and II teachers has been part and parcel of Mayor Bloomberg’s “restructuring” of the school system from the start. He has managed to successfully disguise cost-cutting measures by demonizing veteran teachers as ‘union hacks.” And those who haven’t retired, who’ve managed to sweat it through these last four years of dehumanizing working conditions now find themselves vilified in the press by a lawyer without a teaching credential to his name. The Chancellor made it unambiguously clear that he was in no way interested in having excessed teachers re-hired when he lifted the hiring freeze on new teachers just days before the schools were to open, giving the green-light (and a nod and a wink) to principals to hire neophyte (read: cheap) teachers before rehiring those who’d been excessed.

Then there is the ever-present fear of union-busting. The New Visions small school movement separates teachers from each other and from collective action; merit-pay proposals, higher-pay proposals for math and science teachers, public calls for international (read: ‘better’) teachers, and ‘anybody can be a teacher’ programs such as the highly advertised New York City Teaching Fellows (how many small classes could that advertising budget have financed?), and the Teach for America six-week summer training program further divide an already fractured rank and file.

NYC public schools are fast becoming revolving doors of 3-year internships for ambitious, well-meaning kids, often from elite colleges¬, who are on their way to bigger and better things: law school, business school, medical school (The New York Times, 10/2/05). This de-professionalization/peace-corp-ing of the teaching profession in New York City is demeaning, a threat to New York City teaching professionals, and an aggressive attempt to turn back the clock on ninety years of New York City teacher activism. Corporatist privatizers and voucher/charter school advocates like Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein would have us believe that the revolving door is good for education; that canned lesson plans, year-round literacy assessments, and high-stakes testing are what every child needs so as not to be left behind. But Mike and Joel would never educate their kids in a NYC public school. So why are mayorally-controlled/centralized/top-down/high-stakes testing school systems just fine for “other people’s children,” to borrow Lisa Delpit’s damning phrase?

When Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein start sending their loved ones to local New York City public schools, then perhaps we are all safe to do so, too.